Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
A judge in a Santa Monica courthouse rejected a request for a new trial from the Hotel Shangri-La and its owner on Jan. 31.
In August 2012, a jury found the boutique hotel in Santa Monica and its owner, Tehmina Adaya, guilty of discriminating against a group of young Jews and others who were attending a party at the hotel’s pool. On Thursday morning, Judge H. Chester Horn, Jr., who presided over the original case, denied a motion for a new trial as well as another post-trial motion submitted by attorneys representing Adaya and the Shangri-La.
Attorneys for the hotel, who had argued in a brief that a juror who cried during the original trial was grounds to grant a second trial, focused their arguments in court on the damages awarded to the plaintiffs, two of whom were in the courtroom on Thursday. The defense argued that the amount – more than $1.6 million awarded by the jury in different amounts to the 18 individual plaintiffs -- was excessive.
Even as he rejected the defense’s argument, Horn did direct a word of caution to the plaintiffs, saying that if an appeals court felt differently about the damages, it might not simply reduce the sum; the higher court could decide to grant the defendants’ request for a new trial as a remedy.
Adaya was not in court on Thursday, but Ellen Adelman, chief development officer for the Shangri-La, said the hotel would “absolutely” appeal the case in higher court, adding that she was “encouraged” by Horn’s remark.
James Turken, the attorney for the plaintiffs, said Horn’s statement might have been aimed at getting the parties to come to a settlement. Turken didn’t hold out much hope for that to happen, though.
“The decision was 100 percent in our favor," Turken said outside the courtroom on Thursday. “I expect this to go to the court of appeals because Ms. Adaya has been acting consistently with her past behavior, and refuses to accept reality.”
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January 30, 2013 | 12:18 am
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
If the candidates alone got to select the next mayor of Los Angeles, City Councilwoman Jan Perry would win the city’s top job in a landslide.
Asked by Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple, who moderated a forum with the five leading candidates at his synagogue in Westwood on Jan. 29, who they would vote for if they couldn’t choose themselves, all four of Perry’s competitors said she would get their support.
The candidates gave varied reasons for selecting Perry: City Controller Wendy Greuel cited Perry’s record of creating jobs downtown and noted that Perry – like Greuel – would give Angelenos the chance to elect the city’s first woman mayor. City Councilman Eric Garcetti said Perry inspired him by fighting for the causes in which she believes. Kevin James, the lone Republican in the race, said he’d vote for Perry because she exposed “back-room dealings” at City Hall, and Emanuel Pleitez, a technology executive, also picked Perry for her “courage” in admitting mistakes.
[Watch the entire debate at jewishdebates.com]
Wolpe’s question was just one of a number intended to put the mayoral hopefuls off of their pre-scripted stump speeches. The candidates had met for a televised debate just 24 hours earlier and at least 18 more forums and debates are scheduled to take place between now and the primary election on March 5.
Despite the rabbi’s efforts, each candidate stayed mostly on message.
Greuel highlighted her work as controller in identifying waste, fraud and abuse, and pledged to be a mayor “for all of Los Angeles,” a slogan that also appears in her first TV advertisement, posted on her website earlier on Tuesday.
Garcetti pointed to his success at revitalizing Hollywood, pledged (along with every other candidate) to abolish the city’s gross receipts tax, and said he would continue his work to improve public education in the city, even if the Mayor’s powers in that arena are limited.
Perry said she would follow the example of former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, by advancing her agenda “in a hands-on way,” taking ideas to community members first. “By the time you bring it back into City Hall for a vote, you build energy, you build momentum, you build consensus and community support,” she said.
James, a first-time candidate, kept his message as clear as it has been from the start: Los Angeles is a city in the throes of a “leadership crisis,” he said, and the elected officials on the stage should be held responsible, not given a promotion.
“They are City Hall,” James said on Tuesday evening. “It is broken. They broke it.”
Pleitez sounded a similar note in his closing statement. “If you’re happy with the results and the experience, you have three great choices, and you should vote for them,” he said, referring to Greuel, Garcetti and Perry. “I present to you an alternative.”
Pleitez, for the record, was the candidate who Perry picked, in her response to the question that won her so much support from her opponents. Perry said she admired the 30-year-old candidate’s enthusiasm and intelligence.
Speaking to a reporter after the debate, she didn’t dwell much on her opponents’ kind words.
“The rabbi made this an unusual evening in the way he conducted the forum, and I really enjoyed it,” Perry said.
For full video of the debate, visit www.jewishjournal.com/debates.
January 27, 2013 | 3:46 pm
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
Junior’s Deli may be gone, but its space – and iconic blue-green sign – are about to have a new occupant: Lenny’s Deli, a Jewish delicatessen that had a brief residency in Pacific Palisades, will open for business “soon,” according to a banner first spotted by Eater L.A.
On Sunday, The Non-Prophet snapped a pic of some new cursive letters on the old Junior’s sign.
Junior’s, long a favorite of movie industry types – “Mel Brooks was a regular and is even said to have written parts of ‘History of the World Part I,’” per The Wrap – was mourned widely when it closed in December.
No one could be reached at Lenny’s on Sunday, but from a quick comparison of the menu posted on Lenny’s site and a takeout menu still available on Junior’s website, the offerings and prices of the new deli should be familiar to those who frequented the old one. (The phone number also appears to be unchanged.)
Lox, eggs and onions, anyone?
January 4, 2013 | 12:24 am
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
At a debate held on Thursday evening at Congregation Beth Jacob in Beverly Hills, five candidates for Mayor of Los Angeles may have been addressing a Jewish audience in an Orthodox synagogue, but the subjects they covered were anything but sacred.
Questions about economic development, public safety, education and traffic all were covered during the forum on Jan. 3, but the topic that brought to the fore some of the clearest distinctions between the candidates was the fiscal future of Los Angeles.
“Leadership is not telling people about what they want to hear, but what they need to hear,” Los Angeles City Councilman Eric Garcetti said when asked what he would do as mayor to help the city avert bankruptcy.
Los Angeles is facing a $222 million budget deficit, a sum that is only set to grow in subsequent years, and is driven in large part by commitments made by the city to its workers.
Story continues after the video.
In 2007, Garcetti voted for a deal to give city workers raises, which has helped contribute to the deficit. He told the audience of about 350 people on Thursday that he would negotiate “respectfully but tenaciously” with the leaders of public sector unions over the terms of their contracts.
The other two elected officials on the stage at Beth Jacob, Los Angeles City Controller Wendy Greuel and Councilwoman Jan Perry, also voted for the 2007 pay raise, and each offered different ways of closing the budget deficit facing the city.
Greuel, who served on City Council before being elected Controller, emphasized economic development as a way of closing the deficit, but also said that some pension reform would be required, promising to crack down on the practice of “double-dipping,” when workers collect pensions while remaining on the city payroll.
Perry, who has said that she regrets her 2007 vote, spoke about refocusing the city’s attention on providing core services – like public safety -- and suggested Los Angeles might benefit from outsourcing the management of its convention center and the zoo, or privatizing those facilities completely.
Neither of the two other candidates who took part in the debate, Kevin James and Emanuel Pleitez, has held elected office, and both pointed to the past actions taken by the city as evidence that their better-known opponents were unfit to lead the city.
Pleitez, a self-described “progressive” candidate who just turned 30 years old last month and whose campaign reached the fundraising threshold to receive matching funds from the city two days before the debate, proposed raising the retirement age for public sector workers. Pleitez also advocated converting city worker pensions to 401k-style plans and generally adjusting the benefits so that workers pay more and the city pays less.
James, a gay Republican radio talk show host who whose campaign has been getting more attention lately, didn’t offer specific measures to reduce the deficit, but he did pledge to use the threat of bankruptcy as a bargaining tool with city workers. He called the actions taken by his opponents “municipal malpractice.”
The debate, which was moderated by Jewish Journal President David Suissa, was organized by CivicCare, a grassroots group dedicated to engaging and educating Jewish voters in Los Angeles on matters of importance to local governance.